Trail Cafe: Trip report - Lake Louise to Castle Mtn Jcn


Title: Lake Louise to Castle Mtn Jcn
Trip type: canoeing
Summary: The Bow River running through Banff National Park in Calgary. Class II, with the rapids near the start of the run, finishing of with a easy paddle for the second 2/3rds of the run.
Author: Myrl
Date of Trip: July 21 2006
Country: Canada
Province: Alberta
County/City/national park/etc: Banff
Location Route: Bow River
Distance: 32 km
Weather Conditions:Sunny, +31 Deg C.
Directions to Set in or Trail head: go North past the village of Lake Louise on Hwy 1, The put in is emmidately after the train bridge on the left side of the road. A U-turn is required on the hwys after the Hwy Divider.
Directions to Set in or Trail head: At castle junction (Hwy 1 and 93), go East the take out is just after the bridge over the Bow water on the south side.
Partners: Richard and Glen
Group experience level: Intermediate
Author's Experience level: Intermediate
Water Flow Rate:25 cms, resulting in some rocks but not excessive
riverGrade:Grade II - Intermediate
Boat Type Used:Cedar strip Huron Cruiser, and Esquimlt (sp) tripping canoe.
Authors Trip Rating:Good
Trip's Good Points:Fantastic mountain views, on clean blue mountain river.
Trip's Bad Points:Hwy noise, especially with the construction around Lake louise

The Trip Report:

Parks Canada has put a description of the route from Lake Louise to Canmore, including the stage from Lake Louise to Castle Junction, up on the web at

However Parks Canada's description puts in below Lake Louise, and below most of the rapids. I'm not sure if the put in described by the Parks Canada web site is accessible at this time due to twinning of the hwy. (I'm not sure exactly where it is)

The village of Lake Louise provides the opportunity to pick up some breakfast, groceries, or a previously made sandwich for lunch.

Starting above Lake Louise at our put in, the river has a few more challenging sections. The river is fairly fast. I believe, the Rapids described in the summary all occur before the Parks Canada put in.

Rich and Glen just after leaving put in Rich and Glen just after leaving put in

The put in does not have a parking lot, so you need to park on the side of the hwy, make sure you pull well off to the side. The put in is a sheltered cove between some trees, and the rail way embankment. Providing an ideal place to get several canoes loaded, and on the water.

Looking back up river just after leaving the put in. Looking back up river just after leaving the put in.
Rich and Glen waiting for me to take my initial pics. Rich and Glen waiting for me to take my initial pics.

Leaving the cove, you enter a small channel, which joins another, and finally the main river. Up stream is what I think are called the “bath creek rapids” (but not sure). The story goes that a team of railway surveyors (or some such group) were working their way along the west side of the river, when the creek was over run. The leader did not listen to the others when they said the creek was to high to cross, and went ahead. He and his horse were swept down stream into the river, then down river. Getting a early bath. Something like that. The Rapids themselves look pretty rocky, probably class III, but I've not taken a good look at them.

Me, and my canoe... Me, and my canoe...
Glen in the Stern after practicing some eddy turns Glen in the Stern after practicing some eddy turns

Moving down stream, you run under a bridge, with a good eddy line to practice eddy turns and peel outs and ferry's. Which is what we did for a bit. The river's primary channel is well defined and pretty easy to follow and navigate from his point until you are close to Lake Louise. This gives us a bit of an opportunity to practice practice paddling, and get familiar with each other's abilities and techniques. Glen is fairly new to canoing, and he gets a chance in the stern, as well as a first time with tandem with me. Rich and I basically learned to canoe together.

You know you are approaching the town site when you come to the fence crossing the river. This is also where you will find another short easy rapid. Another place we stopped to practice a bit.
Trying to get in behind that rock for some 'surfing' Trying to get in behind that rock for some 'surfing'
In the picture Rich and Glen are trying to work against the eddy line and ferry in behind the rock.

There is a bit more easy paddling, after you come to the walkway bridges the river pics up with a rapid. In higher water I've seen canoes tip here (during a canoe course last summer). Around here you will see the folks out and about around lake louise. Hiking, sunbathing, and biking. We go past a campsite or two. The river pics up a bit with more rocks in the channel as you go under the second town bridge.

The river takes a bend to the left, and you see the High way bridge. This is right around where the portage sign is. And is leading into what I call “R3” in the summary, and two pictures, one at the start and one at the 'end' are above. I'm not sure what these rapids are named. Going under the bridge is a rapid with obvious routes through many rocks. So I guess that makes it class II. This rapid then follows quickly by what I labeled R4. This is probably a more serious rapid, especially in high water.. There is a clear channel river center, but this is full of current and waves.

I ran the rapid solo, probably the pushest rapid I've run solo of any significant length. I was worried about a large rock in the channel about 2/3 of the way through the rapid. Stayed to the right, but to far and managed to hit a couple rocks. On the right side. The size of the waves about 1/3 of the way through the rapid took me a bit by surprise. Problem was I was taking to many pictures while scouting, and not paying enough attention. The the final bit ends in a wave train, we'd hoped to cross to river left. Both of us failed that move, as the water was pushier than we were used to. .

After that we had lunch at the end of the rapid. We watched a raft come bouncing down the rapid as we ate. Looked fun, but I think it was more exciting in the canoe, although less forgiving.

After lunch, we continued on, the river winds between Hwy 1 and Hwy 1A, not remote, but the views are great. The river it self is a fast river (it's in the mountains, go figure), but it was easily doable by an intermediate level paddle group.

One thing that really struck me is how massive Castle Mtn is. Especially if you consider Castle and Protection Mountains are the same big rock. It seemed to take for ever to paddle past it. Not that I'm complaining, it was a great view to have.

The take out is just after the Bridge for Hwy 93. Up on top of the Bridge is a massive birds nest. The Mother is in sitting with her chicks, an Osprey I think. There were people out photographing when we put in, and another group watching when we left. Apperently quite the attraction.


Glen and rich somewhere still above Lake Louise town site

switch up Myrl and Glen now tandem

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Content Copyright Myrl Tanton 2006

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